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Norfolk - Watton

Kelly's Directory for Cambridgeshire, Norfolk & Suffolk, 1883, pp.546-8.

[Complete entry. Transcription Copyright © E.C. ("Paddy") Apling]

WATTON is a parish, small market town, polling place for the Western division of the county and station on the Great Eastern, Thetford and Watton railway. The town is situated just within the woodland district but near the open part, in a remarkably healthy and fertile country 10 miles south from East Dereham, and 10 south-east from Swaffham, 21 west-by-south from Norwich, and 96 from London, in Wayland hundred and union, Attleborough county court district, rural deanery of Breccles, and archdeaconry and diocese of Norwich: this is a place of considerable trade, forming, as it does, a kind of little metropolis of a number of surrounding parishes. There is a quaint old rebus or device on the clock-house, expressive of the name of the town: it consists of a W, a hare, and a tun; a hare was often called by the country people a "Wat," which joined with "tun," makes, in the conceit of early times, "Watton." The town chiefly consists of one wide street, and is lighted with gas. The Watton and Swaffham line between these towns complete the railway communication between Lynn and Thetford. The church of St. Mary, partly Norman and partly Gothic, was built close to the old manor house of Watton Hall (though the latter is now no longer to be seen), and stands some little distance to the east end of the town: it was built about the time of Henry I. and was originally dedicated to St. Giles, though afterwards it was rededicated to St. Mary: the tower is round at the base, with an octagonal top and contains 3 large bells: the church has been thoroughly restored, the floor lowered to the original level and open benches placed throughout instead of the old pews; a handsome oak screen, pulpit and lectern were introduced and a vestry built; an organ with three manuals and 2¾ octaves of pedals was also erected and a beautiful reading desk has since been added: a curious poor-box is preserved bearing the date 1552: over the chancel arch, outside the church, is a beautiful and perfect specimen of a crucifix, carved in stone, which was originally placed over the north porch: there are several monuments to the families of Wodehouse, Samuel, Hammond, Raby and Hicks: six of the windows are stained, two having been presented by the Rev. W. C. Hodgson, a former vicar. The register dates from the year 1539. The living is a discharged vicarage, yearly value £190 with residence and 12A. 0R. 19P. of glebe, in the gift of Joseph Trueman Mills esq. of Clermont, Little Cressingham, and held since 1867 by the Rev. Thomas Brookes Wrenford of St. Bees. The vicarage house and grounds have been greatly enlarged and improved. In the town are almshouses for four poor widows, founded in 1612 by Edward Goffe, who endowed them with a yearly rent charge of £5; they were rebuilt in 1820 by R. Harvey esq. Almshouses were also built by Mr. Edward Stephens, of Watton, who in 1840 conveyed them to trustees for the benefit of four poor married couples of the ages of sixty years, who have resided in the parish for not less then thirty years. In the year 1870 a scheme for the regulation of certain Watton charities was obtained from the Charity Commissioners, through the instrumentality of the vicar: it provides that certain land in the parish, allotted under the Watton Enclosure Act 1802, amounting to about 60A. 1R. 28P. with the buildings thereon, and let for £138 a year, shall be held by the lord of the manor, the vicar, the churchwardens, and overseers, and two others, in trust for the benefit of the poor and deserving inhabitants of Watton as they may from time to time select: the income of the charities is usually expended in the purchase of coals and bread, but the trustees have power also to supply the deserving poor with clothes, bedding, medical and other aid in sickness, and with pecuniary aid in special cases. This charity is called "The Poor's Allotment Charity:" by the same scheme certain land in the parish belonging to the church amounting to about 12A. 1R. 26P. with the buildings thereon, and let for £51 a year, was settled upon the vicar and churchwardens, in trust to apply the income towards providing for the maintenance, repairs; and insurance against fire of the parish church, and to defraying the other expenses usually provided for by a church-rate, or legally payable thereout: this charity is called in the scheme "The Church Lands Charity." The Wayland Hall, a building of brick and stone in the style prevailing in the time of Henry VII. was built by shareholders, in 1853, in the Market place, and is of great benefit to the town and neighbourhood: it comprises a corn hall, magistrates' rooms, library and committee rooms: it has a roof of timber work, with hammer-beams and spandrils, with open tracery, and the windows are framed so as to be in perfect keeping with the general character of the edifice: it was built from the designs of Mr. C. Lamb. In 1204 a writ was brought to inquire whether the market, granted to John de Vaux, who held the manor of Watton Hall, was not prejudicial to the market of Saham, and it being found to be so, the writ was recalled; but Oliver de Vaux, at the end of the same year, obtained a new charter, under which the market was to be held every Wednesday, and it still continues to be held on the same day. The Railway Hotel, a commodious building facing the station, the George and the Crown are the principal hotels. A County Police Station was built in 1856, at the junction of the Norwich and Thetford roads, at which there is stationed an inspector and one constable. Messrs. Gurneys and Co. of Norwich, have a branch bank here. On the south side of the town is Wayland (or Wailing) Wood, the property of Lord Walsingham, of Merton Hall: it deserves notice, inasmuch as it is confidently believed by the country people to have been the scene of the murder of "The Babes in the Wood" by their cruel uncle: a carved mantelshelf displaying the story, and forming part of a very ancient building in this wood, probably gave rise to this quaint tradition, which is in a measure corroborated by the old ballad entitled "The Two Children in the Wood"; or The Norfolk Gentleman's Last Will and Testament;" it will be found in "Percy's Reliques." Joseph Trueman Mills esq. J.P. is lord of the manor of Watton Hall, and the manor of Rockolls belongs to J. E. Alexander esq. The principal landowners are Lord Walsingham J.P. Sir Charles Harvey Harvey bart. Joseph Trueman Mills esq. J.P. Frederick Lake esq. and others. The area is 1,807 acres; rateable value £7,533; the population in 1881 was 1,407.

Official Establishments, Local Institutions &c.

POST MONEY ORDER & TELEGRAPH OFFICE & Savings Bank. Sub.office.— Letters should have S.O. Norfolk added.—William Stoveld Stace, postmaster. Letters arrive at 4.15 a.m. London 1.0 p.m.; dispatched at 7.55 p.m.; Box closes at 7.35 p.m.




The union comprises the following places:—

Board day, every alternate Monday at 10 a.m. at the union.
Clerk to the Guardians, Henry Francis Grigson, Watton
Relieving Officer, Watton & Attleborough district, William Shepherd, Rockland St. Andrew
Vaccination Officers, The Registrars of Births & Deaths
Medical Officers & Public Vaccinators, Attleborough district, C. G. Ellis M.D. Attleboro'; Watton district, Henry Mallins, Watton
Superintendent Registrar, Henry Francis Grigson, Watton
Registrars of Births, Deaths & Marriages, Attleborough sub-district, William Shepherd, Attleboro'; Watton sub-district, Arthur Sayer, Rockland St. Peter
Workhouse, William Anderson Own, master; Rev. James Atkinson Bulman Fleming, chaplain; Mrs. Adah Owen, matron; Miss Louisa Wright, school mistress


Clerk, Henry Francis Grigson, Watton
Medical Officer of Health, H. G. Foster
Inspector of Nuisances, Arthur Sayer, Rockland St. Peter

County Police Station, John Daniel White, inspector; the local force consists of inspector & one constable
Fire Engine, G. S. Rice, keeper
Inland Revenue Office, Crown hotel, Charles Playfair, officer,
Reading Room, S. Short, sec
Stamp Office, William Stoveld Stace, distributor

Clerk to the Commissioners of Taxes, Richard Robinson
Inspector of Weights & Measures, Superintendent, Robert Starke, East Harling
Poor's Rate & Queen's Taxes Collector, Edward Harvey

The National School, built in 1819 by William Robinson esq. was rebuilt in 1842 & an additional schoolroom has since been erected: it will hold 187 children. An infant school to hold about 60 children was erected in 1876, at the opposite end of the parish from the National school, to meet the requirements of the Education Act, 1870. The playground of two acres, was the gift of Mrs. Harvey; Charles Lintott, master; Mrs. Emily Lintott, girls' mistress; Mrs. Caroline Bicker, infants' mistress. Six boys of Watton are entitled to free instruction at Saham school

Transcription Copyright © E.C. ("Paddy") Apling, August 2000; links updated February 2011.

1891 Census Names Index
White's 1854
Watton postmill [Jonathan Neville]
Watton information [Wayland News]
About Norfolk web-pages [Judi Ingram]
RAF Watton info
More on Watton [GENUKI-NFK]
Return to villages index
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